When most hunters think about going out of state for a hunt, their minds turn to getting drawn for elk or mule deer out west. The truth is there are a lot of great out-of-state hunts in the east for whitetail that can offer chances at good deer, without worrying about draws, with some really affordable tags.
If this year has you wanting to get away, but you missed the window to get drawn, here are some over-the-counter options that might not be as far away or expensive, but still get you out of the house and in some new areas, with a chance at a trophy.
Wisconsin leads the list for a couple reasons. First, the quality of deer in Wisconsin is incredible. No doubt you’ve heard the tales of Buffalo County, but there are great hunting opportunities to be had throughout the state.
Second, it’s affordable. Non-resident hunters can get in the field legally for around $160, which is super affordable. Never hunted Wisconsin before? You can give it a try even cheaper. Wisconsin has a program for first-time license buyers in the state that basically knocks 50% off your tag. It doesn’t get much better than that does it?
Bonus for non-resident hunters in Wisconsin; lots of public ground. About 18% of Wisconsin ground is public, so you can put boots on the ground and start hunting pretty much right away. A lot of that public ground is further north where the hunting can be a little harder than in the more agriculture-laden southern part of the state, but there are still deer to be had.
You will want to be mindful of CWD zones and any regulations that go along with those, but if you are looking for public-land hunting in a state where a true monster buck can be had, Wisconsin is it, and that’s why it tops the list. For more details and to stay legal in the Badger state visit https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/.
Ohio isn’t a secret when it comes to big deer. What might be a secret is just how affordable it is for hunters who come from out of state to hunt there.
Non-resident hunters need to purchase a hunting license for $125, and then your buck tag will run you $24. So, for just under $150, you are up and running the state of Ohio. The Ohio tag and license structure is also one of, if not the, most logical licensing systems in the country as far as I’m concerned. You purchased your buck or doe tag and it’s good for any season. Go to the Buckeye state for archery, but don’t seal the deal? You can return with your tag still in hand for their firearms season and still be legal. It’s straightforward, it’s legal, and frankly MOST states could take a page from the Ohio regulation book in this regard.
If there’s a downside, it’s the lack of public hunting ground. Just 4.2% of Ohio is public, so there isn’t no public ground, but you won’t have the options of some other states. That said, a little scouting, a little hard work, and maybe a few phone calls can get you on some ground that may well hold the deer of a lifetime.
The Ohio DNR website is currently being redesigned, but keep checking for details.
While it isn’t mentioned with the same reverence as other states on this list, or in deer hunting in general, don’t sleep on the Hoosier state. Those paying attention have seen the quality of deer Indiana has been turning out with increasing numbers for the last decade, and while the herd management has lagged behind some other states, and still has some substantial holes, big deer abound here.
The biggest problem in Indiana has been their unwillingness to streamline and simplify that licensing process that in many ways is still a holdover from before Indiana went to the one-buck rule more than two decades ago. Simplest thing to do? Just buy the deer license bundle. It covers all weapons seasons, and allows you to take a buck and two does, or three does, for just $295 as a non-resident. Buy the bundle and don’t take a deer during archery? Come back for the general firearms or muzzleloaders seasons with a tag that’s still good. Archery opens October 1, and both the general firearms and muzzleloader season are two full weeks spanning three weekends. Plenty of time to get in the woods.
Indiana was a slug gun state for a long time, then went to pistol cartridge rifles, and in the last few years has opened up to a host of other rifle options, but there are still limitations, so be sure to double check the regulations to make sure you’re legal, especially if you end up on public grounds. Tags and weapons have additional restrictions on public land that could cause you issues if you aren’t paying attention. Certain doe tags aren’t valid on public land, and the same goes for rifle calibers.
Much like Ohio, less than 5% of the state is public ground, so you may have to work to find spots to hunt, but they are there, and the chances of a big deer being there are pretty good.
Find out about deer hunting in Indiana by visiting https://www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/2344.htm.
Wherever you choose to hunt this fall, even if you don’t go out of state, stay safe and good luck!